A couple weeks ago, I stumbled into an Indigo (Canadian for Barnes & Noble . . . sort of) looking for a quick read over the lunch hour. Without a single baseball magazine to choose from, I went searching through the stacks of baseball books that were hidden almost underneath an escalator.
Interested in one out of every two dozen stacked, I made three decisions: 1) I was going to spend this summer reading as many books about baseball as possible, 2) I wasn’t going to read any shitty books about baseball, and 3) I wasn’t going to read any fictional books about baseball (no matter what good things people say about Mark Harris’ The Southpaw).
After a quick and frustratingly unfruitful search online, I consulted my friend and fellow baseball head James (previously mentioned in this blog as the man who intends on tying his first son’s right arm to his body as a means of improving his chances of raising a Southpaw) on a proper list of good baseball reading.
His suggestions combined with my own baseball reading have resulted in The DJF Guide To Summer Reading. Throughout the summer, I’ll be providing reviews on many of these books, as I knock off the ones I haven’t already read.
The Long Ball by Tom Adelman
This is an in-depth look at the 1975 season, mainly covering the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds, with features on Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Catfish Hunter, Pete Rose and one of the greatest World Series of all time.
A Pitcher’s Story by Roger Angell
Angell, quite possibly the greatest baseball writer, follows David Cone during the 2000 season, the worst of his career. Despite some pity for the arm aneurysm, I hate David Cone. I hated him when he left the Jays for Kansas City and then I hated him again when he came back and whined to be traded.
Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof
We all know the story and everything, but this book goes into more meticulous detail about the 1919 Black Sox than you when you brag to your friends about your first threesome experience. Although written in 1963, this book would still be a stand out if it were written today.
Ball Four by Jim Bouton
Before the days of tell-all book deals, this story named names and made no attempt to protect anyone. According to Wikipedia, Ball Four covers all “the petty jealousies, the obscene jokes, the drunken tomcatting . . . and the routine drug use” of a professional baseball team.
Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt
Probably Canada’s best print journalist, Brunt covers the first thirty years of our beloved Blue Jays, from drunk fans who loved Rush to, well, drunk fans who still love Rush.
The Last Best League by Jim Collins
Collins chronicles the Cape Cod League’s Chatham A’s during the 2002 summer league season and introduces a number of characters amongst the college all-stars. Along the way, we’re given an appreciation for summer on Cape Cod and the place of baseball in the heart of a local community.
Game Of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams
Do you hate Barry Bonds, but have trouble articulating just why? You can skim any random page of this amazing piece of investigative journalism and come up with a dozen reasons to hate the soon-to-be Home Run King of Kings.
The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James
I know you’re thinking this is likely just the first baseball abstract, but with a new epilogue or something. It’s actually almost an entirely new book in which James rates the 100 best players at each position and introduces more ways to statistically analyze ball clubs.
The Boys Of Summer by Roger Kahn
Kahn takes a look at the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, right up to their 1955 World Series win. He also follows the individual players from these storied teams as they live their lives after baseball.
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
You’ve probably used the term “moneyball” more than the word “please” over the last couple months, but find out why Oakland GM Billy Beane would not want Jeremy Bonderman and Ben Sheets on his team. Also learn what Silver Tongue Ricciardi was up to before his days as Jays GM.
Fantasyland by Sam Walker
Subtitled as a season on baseball’s lunatic fringe, Walker writes about his experience getting into the world of fantasy baseball. According to the The New York Times review, he “goes all out, hiring experts, attending spring training, peppering general managers and players with technical questions and trying to determine whether the clubhouse access he enjoyed as a sportswriter would help him in drafting the best batters and pitchers.”
Weaver On Strategy by Earl Weaver
With a managerial strategy based around pitching, defense and the three run home run, it would be interesting to see how Weaver would stack up against his managerial competitors today. However, the cocky, foul-mouthed manager isn’t just full of piss and vinegar. Reading about his baseball philosophy is a great companion piece to the more scientific Moneyball.
May The Best Team Win by Andrew Zimbalist
Zimbalist wrote the book on the economics of sport. No, literally, he wrote The Economics of Sport I and II. In this book, the American economist examines the current state of baseball and offers economic solutions for the many inequalities between the haves and have nots of Major League Baseball teams.